Washington and Oregon are two different states and have two different rules about division of assets. Washington is a community property state, which means that Washington will look at separate property of each spouse in a divorce case and it will look at the marital community property. Oftentimes in Washington, you’re going to have tracing. If a separate property of one spouse has been put into the marital community, you can actually trace that separate property and potentially remove it out of the community property and get it back as your separate asset.
That’s very different than Oregon, which is an equitable distribution state. In Oregon, assets are divided equitably, which doesn’t mean equally. It means equitably, but we have to determine what assets are marital assets. Things like inheritances are typically not marital assets in Oregon, and in Washington they’re not community property. There’s a time when a court could consider an inheritance in its final determination in Oregon if it’s what is called “just and equitable.” You might see that in a situation where someone receives, let’s say, a $2 million inheritance and the entire marital estate is only $100,000, so one spouse leaves with $50,000 and the other spouse gets $50,000 plus $2 million. In that case, if it’s been a really long marriage with a bunch of kids, the court might decide that it’s not equitable not to give the one spouse a little bit of that $2 million.
There’s a little bit more room for moving things around in Oregon, and Washington is a little bit more strict with the community property and the separate property.
Laura Schantz is a family law attorney and mediator practicing in Beaverton, Oregon. To learn more about Laura Schantz and her firm, Schantz Law P.C., visit www.oregondivorceattorney.com.